Author Archives: Jayne Hilditch

Oh go on then, let’s have a Housing Camp

tldr: Tickets.

It’s time. Housing Camp 2014 is just around the corner. Saturday, 13th September to be precise.

Those lovely folks at GDS are lending us their offices in central London. Exciting! Mega thanks to @jacattell for making that happen.

If you missed it last year, check out the short film we made on the day that explains a bit about the unconference format. And have a nosey at some of the posts from last year too, especially this one. (Maybe ignore the one that tells you how to get to Twickenham though. Unless you fancy going anyway that is, it is lovely).

Tickets are available here. They’re free and will be appearing in two batches (one right now), to give lots of folks the chance to come along. Once all the tickets are spoken for we’ll run a waitlist, so if you register and then discover you can’t make it, please let us know!

Most important though, remember: What sessions are run is entirely up to you. If you want to talk about online service delivery, social media & campaigns; organisation culture; or a new model of home ownership, it’s all in scope. Pitch a session, and if others share your interest, you’ve got a conversation.

And when it’s all done, we go to the pub, and carry on talking…

We’ve got some sponsors lined up who we’ll be announcing soon, but if your organisation would like to get involved in supporting Housing Camp, please do get in touch ( – it would be great to provide lunch, drinks etc – and in return we’ll give you a warm glow that you’re helping the Housing Innovation community grow, and all the promo we can think of.


A mini #housingcamp about #channelshift

Jayne here.  In the last couple of months, I’ve had various emails and phone calls from folks in the housing sector who’re all keen to come visit us and talk about channel shift, digital by default, online services….  There’s lots of different expressions for it, but it seems like folks are wanting to work out how best to do “more stuff for customers on the web”.

My diary is a bit bonkers, so it struck me that talking to everyone individually about it, wasn’t massively efficient.  But it would be good to share our experiences of what’s working, what’s not, where we’ve started to make progress etc.  I’ve exchanged a few tweets, and some emails with folks not on twitter, and it seems like this might be a plan.

An evening meetup.  We’re happy to host here at TVH Towers, next door to the train station in Twickenham.  We have some comfortable café-style meeting space, wifi, and big screens.  And there’s a supermarket downstairs, so in true #camp style, its easy to BYO for snacks!

We’re happy to share with you what we’ve done so far for our online services project.  In fact, it would be really useful to get some feedback on the product we’ve built (we’re doing a beta release at the end of this month).

From a technical angle, we can talk about agile project management, responsive front end design, ruby on rails, stored procedures, SQL databases…

From a user angle we can talk about real time data, redesigned statements, repairs requests, repairs history, visibility and alerts on common parts repairs, tenancy documents, service charge statements….  There’s a long list of functionality, a MVP (minimum viable product) and a development roadmap to see us through the next 12 months.

But moreover, it would be great if we could ALL share our experiences – what are we all thinking, doing, finding out along the way.  Digital service delivery is pretty new for the sector, so there’s much to learn.  And sometimes starting out on these projects is daunting.  Exactly how do you eat that elephant of interfacing systems?  I reckon a little group of interested people could be great for moving our collective thinking forward.

Get in touch if you’re interested – comment, email, tweet.  Whatever suits.  A stimulating evening with say 10 or so folks could be just the thing.  I’m thinking some time in March, or early May.  Let me know what works best.

How to run a Housing Camp (or at least, how we did…). Part Two.

Facilitating.  You might be a confident facilitator yourself and be happy to take on the role yourself.  If you’re going the DIY route, I reckon a whistle is a must have for calling everyone to order.  It seems that campers are bit more animated and (happily) noisy than corporate suits.  Or you might want to get in touch with the lovely Lloyd Davis (other facilitators are available).  I’m quite at home with being a facilitator (in fact never more at home than with sharpies and post-it notes in hand), but figured that it’s a tall order to be an organiser and a facilitator all at the same time.  So we asked for some help on that front.

Catering.  If you’ve got plenty of budget, then call a catering company and they’ll deliver whatever you want.  If you’ve no budget, ask folks to bring a packed lunch – I’m sure they will.  We had a modest budget, so we did online ordering for a good range of supplies from the supermarket.  Self service worked fine – we just laid the tables out to try and give lots of “surface area access” (I’m sure there’s a more technical term) – basically trying to avoid bottle necks.  And some strategically placed recycling bins meant folks mostly cleared up after themselves too. (Jon’s note: Tesco are one of the few supermarkets who delivery their lunch to go range. Order only 2 or 3 of each sandwich though otherwise you’ll end up in substitution hell.)

Signage.  We’re familiar with our office building, but we needed to make it easy for those that aren’t.  So Jon knocked up some signage to take folks from the front door, through the corridors and into the space we were using.  We had some good debate on the correct placement of apostrophes too.

Image clipped from the Housing Camp filmName Badges.  A much under-used resource. Make ‘em big enough to see, and work out what else you can put on them.  Wifi login details maybe?  If you’re going to punch holes in heavy-weight paper or card (as we did) to put them on a lanyard… stick sellotape round the bit you’re going to hole-punch to stop them ripping.  We only realised this when they started ripping.  Oh well, not a major tragedy, and it was interesting to see some the impromptu hacks to solve the problem (some involved paperclips?). (Jon’s note: Big thanks to Laura for requisitioning Payments’ hole puncher and opening a badge punching desk at reception over lunch.)

postitsThe Grid.  Unless you’re a school teacher and can right big neat letters quickly, prepare this in advance.  I had a bit of a rush doing this on the morning.  And make it big enough to get post-it notes on.   We went for two sessions in the morning, a lunch break and two in the afternoon, then a short wrap up.  The lovely James Cattell also knocked up a google docs version of the grid, so folks could access it online.

Organising Stuff & Asking For Help.  We made a big list of jobs that needed doing, asked folks if they’d be up for helping.  And they were.  And that was pretty much it.  All the members of #TeamHousingCamp simply took something on the list and made it happen.  The biggest hurdle to get over was the one where you realise you don’t have to be herculean and do it all yourself.

Co-ordinating on the Day.  The talented Mr Foster set up #TeamHousingCamp with a riot-organisers best friend – a group messaging app.  Clearly I’m not a teenager and the beauty of BBM had passed me by, so this was all new.  We used GroupMe and it rocks.  We used for everything from “I need a hand putting out lunch” through to “can the coffee machine monitor come help un-bung the coffee grinds”.

Pub.  We made arrangements with the local pub – in Twickenham it’s a must – if the rugby crowd are in town you don’t have a chance of getting anywhere near the bar!   They were happy to run a tab at the bar to the limit we set, and our #housingcamp name badges were used so they could tell who to let order on the tab. (Said tab was kindly sponsored by Learning Pool. THANKS!)

Its really not too onerous.  Go on, you know you want to…:)

Part three, “on the day itself” next week,

How to run a Housing Camp (or at least, how we did it….). Part One.

There’s clearly more than one way.  But we figured we’d put up a spot of background on what was involved in putting on the first #housingcamp.  It really wasn’t that onerous – we hope that others will be up for doing some on more specific topics and in their own parts of the country – and we’re deffo up for another national one next year.

I’ll break it down into three chunks.  That way the blog posts get written, instead of sitting in my ‘oh that’ll take ages’ box.  And it means Jon won’t give me grief 😉

Rope some friends in to help.   Many things in life is easier when you’re not on your own.  Playing football, kissing, running events…  Jon Foster and I did most of the pre-event organising around our day jobs at Thames Valley Housing Association. And then on the day itself, we had a fab gang of colleagues making up Team Housing Camp.  It was really useful to have so many hands to make light work of the various jobs (will cover those in another post later this week).

Find a venue.  This is the biggy.  A venue with WiFi, a big meeting space and then some smaller breakout spaces.   Preferably one that will allow you to self-cater – unless you’ve lots of ££ to spend (or they’re sponsoring)!  We used the office at Thames Valley, because we could.  And that made it easy – we knew the WiFi could take 100+ people all trying to access it at the same time.

Set a date.  We went with a Saturday, partially because that’s when the venue was available.  But also because we were following the UK GovCamp model – which is pretty much along the lines of  “be an activist”.  If it’s on a Saturday, you don’t need to ask your boss if you can attend.  You can just do it.  We had a few calls from people saying “but, but, but… you must have made a mistake – that’s a SATURDAY!?!”.  And to those folks we said “yeah, we know.  Its great if you can come, but we understand if you can’t”.  We recognised that if we flipped it round the other way, there would be people who still wouldn’t be able to make it because they had meetings, or a boss who “didn’t get it” etc.  It was a good reminder that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.  And that there is rarely a single “right answer” to anything.

Set up a website for the event.  Please do get in touch to talk about using  If you’re planning an event that’s in line with the un-conference or open-space principles, you’d be most welcome.  Use the site to tell people what you’ve got in mind, and the logistics.  Don’t overlook the logistics – folks need to know the details.  Date, time, place, travel/parking details, accessibility details – make it easy for them to find you.

Use an online ticketing tool to manage ticket allocations.  We used Eventbrite because we know it well, but other brands of ticketing tools are available.  We reckoned on issuing a max of 120 tickets for a 100 capacity venue, expecting an on the day fall-out taking use to around 70 or 80 actual people.  It’s a good idea to release tickets in tranches, so you can gauge the volume of interest, and mix of people coming.  We were keen to get a good mix of those working for housing providers, and those providing services to housing providers (it worked pretty well).  

A word on the ‘on-the-day drop-out’.  We recognised that people often value what they pay for, rather than what they get for free.  And that things come up that mean folks’ plans change.  Some people have the good courtesy to let you know before hand if they can’t come, others are just a no-show on the day.  The last group were frustrating, because we ended up over-catering (and I hate waste).  But its as well to plan for some to happen – its just how life is.  The UK GovCamp crew have a great remedy btw, and its one I might try next year.  They let everyone know that they’ll out the no-notice no-shows on social media 😉  They tell me it works really well and they have pretty much 100% attendance!  That’s really important for that event – now its a well-established point in the gov-tech calendar, its way oversubscribed, and they run a wait-list for those not lucky enough to get a ticket in the scheduled releases.

Sponsorship.  There are quite a few organisations out there who are keen to support such events, and build their understanding of the housing sector.  They kindly supported Housing Camp with some ££.  We deliberately kept the costs down so that we weren’t spending huge amounts of time hunting down and pitching the sponsorship “deal”.  Just ask them.  We kept it simple, so it was easy for folks to see the benefits and simply say yay or nay. 

Spreading the word.  No need for expensive advertising, good ‘ole twitter and social channels worked a treat for us.  We could only do this once the site was up – as that was somewhere useful to point people.

I’l do a couple more posts on this theme – one on “before the event” and one on “on the day itself”.  But rest assured: we’re not professional event organisers, we’ve got ‘day-jobs’ in other disciplines, but it was pretty straightforward for us to do.  Mostly it was thinking ahead, and breaking big jobs down into little jobs and asking everyone to do a little bit.  We hope you enjoy the video, and are inspired to run one in your area.  Please do get in touch if we can help at all. 

What’s this “Rule of Two Feet” thing all about then?

feetUse your two feet to take you where you can contribute, share, enjoy, learn or add value.  Don’t sit still and be bored or think “this isn’t the session for me”.  It’s ok, move around.  It’s liberating.  It keeps the energy levels high, and results in a vibrant and stimulating day.

If someone in your session decides its time to move on to another one, that’s ok – be cool.  It doesn’t mean they’re being rude.  It just means they want to explore something else now, and are making space for others to contribute energy to the session.

We’ve probably spent most of our lives being terribly observant of social norms, like sitting still and paying attention.  And it feels a bit weird to get up and head off somewhere else.  But really, its ok.  Try it!

Don’t forget by the way, there are still a few tickets left for Saturday – so spread the word to your housing friends!

Pitching a session

The unconference lingo can be a bit intimidating.  “Pitching”.  Assuming you’re not an American football fan, you’ll probably associate this word with sales.  And not everyone is comfortable with that.  So a quick word of reassurance.  There’s no expectation of a highly polished, clearly articulated elevated pitch (though if you have one of those, that’s fine).  Its perfectly fine to come along and “pitch” any number of variants on….

  • I’m working on [our welfare reform microsite], and I’d really like to get some feedback on our thinking so far.
  • I’m struggling with [finding alternatives to traditional benchmarking], and I’d really like a conversation with anyone who’s got some wisdom to share on it.
  • I’m struggling with [getting our main IT system supplier to provide a decent service], and I’d really like a conversation with others who’re in the same boat – as together we’ll have a louder voice to improve things.
  • I’ve had a eureka moment on [how to co-create projects and collaborate with customers online] and I’d love to share it with anyone who’s interested
  • I’m thinking about [mobile apps], and feel that something might be possible, but I’m not sure what.  It would be good to talk with folks with similar interests and we might be able to find a good approach
  • I’ve got this great idea for [data sharing] – and I’d love to find other orgs that might be up for joining in.

…. you get my drift.

Pitches at #ukgc11 by Paul Clarke

Pitches at #ukgc11 by Paul Clarke

And not everyone is happy standing up in a room full of people and ‘saying it out loud’.  So if that’s you, never fear.  Just fill in a ‘Pitch Card’ on the day, hand it to our facilitator for the day (the Lovely @LloydDavis), or put it in the “Pitch Box” that will be at the side of the room, and someone will read it out for you.  Simples.

There was a great discussion at CommsCamp about how few women pitch  (here’s the storify) – so we’re really hoping that ‘Pitch Cards’ and will make it easier for everyone to get involved.

And if you wanna check out some real life pitches – here are the LocalGovCamp 2011 ones courtesy of John Popham.

So what might people want to talk about?

I’ve hesitated to write this post, as I wouldn’t want folks to be limited to this list. If you want to talk about a subject, then heck, pitch a session and see if others are interested in it too. But since this is the first unconference in our sector, and the format is a bit unknown, I figured I’d start the ball rolling with some things I think folks might be interested in… (Oh, and by the way, there are still plenty of tickets left).

Welfare Reform. How’s it going so far? Sharing experiences on the ground – what’s working, what’s not in terms of customer engagement. Are leaflets triggering people to get in touch, or is it the phone call? How are different organisations ‘organising’ for it: do you have a specialist team or resource, or is benefits advice embedded in Housing Officer roles. Has anyone had good (or bad) experiences to share with benefit entitlement calculating tools, or budgeting tools for customers?

Resident Scrutiny. How is resident scrutiny evolving in the age of Tripadvisor? Is the language of “scrutiny” an impediment to getting staff engagement? Is there a more ‘story-telling’ approach that might be useful? How can technology be used to get feedback from “the unusual suspects”.

Digital Service Delivery. Do folks have experiences (good or bad!) to share on getting services online? Is anyone using the g-cloud procurement framework to good effect?

Digital Exclusion. Is this impacting on your service delivery? Will your customers struggle with Universal Credit administration being online? Any great projects or ideas to share – particularly with this funding competition in mind.

Social Media. How are organisations using social media to connect with their residents, and with each other. Is anyone using social media to facilitate mutual exchanges? How are organisations managing the personal/professional boundaries on social media? What sort of training and protocols are in place? Are you using video or podcasts to reach “the unusal suspects”?

Social Business Platforms. Are you using Yammer or Jive in your organisation? Is it in addition to your intranet or a replacement for it?

Skills Development and online learning. Are you using any tools or approaches in your organisation get more bangs for your training budget buck?

Data. We’ve got insane amounts of data knocking around our organisations. We’ve been collating KPIs for years. Are there more interesting things we can be doing with that data if we open it up and share it. Are there crowdsourcing data projects we can contribute to?

The possibilities are endless. If you’ve got a burning question, or quiet worry, share it. Chances are there’ll be someone in the room who wants to have that conversation too. Pitching a session needn’t be a daunting prospect. Some folks are keen to come along with a thoroughly well thought through presentation that they’d like to share and get get feedback on – and that’s great. But its just as great if you’d like to pitch a session that is “I have a question or a worry about XYZ, and I’d like to have a conversation with others who might also be interested”. No powerpoint required to have a conversation (in fact, we actively and heavily discourage it).

Please feel free to use the comments section to share ideas on what you might want to have a conversation about…

The Big Idea

We’ve been blown away here at HousingCamp HQ,that the first 50 tickets went in a flash. Don’t fret if you’ve missed them, the next batch are being released on 1st April (no joke). Sign up for email updates to this blog if you don’t want to miss them (right hand side of the homepage).

We figured it was worth jotting down a few words on why we’re doing it, on the BHAG.

All roads lead back to the idea that *everyone* has something to offer: some thoughts, some experience, some insight worth sharing. And also that everyone has some questions to ask – sharing your vulnerability and “not knowing everything” is hugely liberating. But most of all that participating is AGT (A Good Thing). These thoughts were all manifest in the first GovCamp I attended a few years back. Initially, I was skeptical – how would the free-form agenda setting process work – how would people know to turn up if they didn’t know what was on? And I wasn’t sure about pitching a session – what if no-one wanted to come? But I was blown away by the energy and enthusiasm of the people there. And, it turns out that people don’t need a conference organiser to tell them what they want to talk about, schedule rooms, and fetch lunch. We could work it all out for ourselves.

Over the years a few new tools have been added to the GovCamp format – the original flipchart paper grid (for scheduling the sessions) has turned into a shared Google Doc – but the principles remain the same and it works like a dream. Moreover, 4 or 5 years on from that first one, the #UKGC community rocks. Its the most amazing talent pool – people who are keen to share, ask for help and generally get stuck in to solving things. The government digital space is stronger for them.

Pitches at UK GovCamp 2013

Pitches at UK GovCamp 2013

So I’ve long harboured a desire to help grow a similar movement in the social housing sector. I wasn’t sure whether the unconference format would work though – we’re all more accustomed to a traditional event format and following ordered rules. But during 2012, it felt like social housing got a bit more digital and social, and now the time is right to try this out.

The BHAG is more than simply a great day on 18 May – it’s about connecting a group of people who can share thoughts and support each other – sometimes it’s difficult being a lone-digital-ranger in a more traditional organisation. Some people might already be making the shift to digital service delivery and have stories to share and warnings of bear traps to avoid. And some will have common challenges we can work on together.

It would be *awesome* to think that come 2014, there might be a group of unconference activists, organising a series of #housingcamp events up and down the country.

So that should keep us busy for a bit. But when we get a moment, anyone want to have a chat about a TedX Social Housing idea I’ve got knocking around?…

Photo Credit: CC BY-NC 2.0 Alex Jackson on Flickr.

Introducing Housing Camp

Drum roll… It’s long been an idea, but now its time has come. #housingcamp

Now the social housing world has embraced another kind of ‘social’, some of us reckon it would be good to get together and share experience, find fellow game-changers and generally bond over all things digital, social and social housing. We’re thinking an unconference format (inspired by UKGovCamp), which is the perfect antidote for those who’ve found themselves dozing off in traditional conferences. Essentially, an unconference is put together and delivered by the attendees. For the people, by the people. Here’s a much better explanation than I could ever muster myself.

We’re hoping for lots of online collaboration – from the hashtag on Twitter, Google Docs and Slideshares, through to video reporting on YouTube – and everything in between.

This is a DIY gathering of interested people who want to make a difference, rather than a slick professional conference. So (a) please bear with us and (b) please offer to help if you can. Collaboration rocks.

So. The outline of a plan.

Event Comms: Primarily twitter, leveraging our collective networks and the #ukhousing tag. Maybe a Facebook page, because its easy. No expensive paid for advertising in the Guardian or Inside Housing. Although a spot of editorial coverage would be nice 😉

Venue: Thames Valley HA have agreed to host it. There’s a couple of big auditorium style rooms, and a range of smaller break-off session rooms. It’s right next door to Twickenham station, just 20 mins from London Waterloo.

Date: We’re thinking April/May/June. Please participate in the poll to let us know of preferred or impossible dates… By the way – it’s on a Saturday – mainly because that’s when the venue is available.

Sponsorship: Thames Valley are sponsoring the venue. If anyone else would like to sponsor lunch, t-shirts, or beers afterwards – then please get in touch ( We’re aiming for light-touch costs, hence light-touch sponsorship.

Tickets: FREE (of course). Your contribution comes by participating and making it a great event. But you’ll need to book so we can manage numbers – we’ll manage tickets on Eventbrite.

Themes: Well, it’s a #housingcamp, so I doubt anyone will want to run a session on Rugby (but now watch, someone will). Given what’s current in housing at the moment, we reckon folks will want to talk about welfare reform, social media, digital service delivery, housing-tech solutions, who knows… If you’d like to pitch to run a session, you’ll have the chance to on the day (*please* do – my big fear is that no-one wants to run a session) – and it would be great if you could share your session ideas here on this site in advance too.

Format: Pretty much the same as our chums at UKGovCamp…

Lets do it.